Dr who leaked No Deal warning slams Tory who compared him to anti-vax

Neurologist who leaked No-Deal drug warning slams ‘attempt to bully whistleblowers’ by Jacob Rees-Mogg after the Tory compared him to disgraced anti-vaxx doctor Andrew Wakefield

  • The leader of the house compared a doctor with whom he clashed about  Brexit preparedness to the disgraced MMR vaccine scaremonger Andrew Wakefield
  • On Monday Dr David Nicholl predicted deaths arising from a No Deal Brexit
  • The neurologist contributed to the leaked Operation Yellowhammer report
  • On LBC radio Mr Rees-Mogg called the doctor an ‘irresponsible Remoaner’  
  • Dr Nicholl threatened to sue Mr Rees-Mogg if these comments were repeated

A doctor who leaked warnings about drug shortages in the event of a No Deal Brexit has slammed Jacob Rees-Mogg after he was compared to a disgraced anti-vaxxer.

Dr David Nicholl rounded on what he described as an ‘attempt to bully whistleblowers’ after the Leader of the House likened his report on the UK’s readiness for No Deal to the work of Andrew Wakefield, who was struck for deliberately falsifying research linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

Mr Rees-Mogg compared Dr Nicholl to the discredited MMR doctor for raising concerns about the supply of drugs in the event of a No Deal Brexit during a Common speech today.

Dr Nicholl spoke out as a whistleblower in March when he shared secret NHS documents with Newsnight which detailed concerns about the government’s inability to stockpile certain drugs.

Today he threatened to sue Mr Rees-Mogg if he repeated the allegations outside the Commons, where he does not have parliamentary privilege and therefore cannot be sued for deformation. 

Dr David Nicholl outside the Houses of Parliament this evening. He arrived to talk to the media and picked up a megaphone to denounce Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about him 

He told BBC Newsnight: ‘I leaked this information to Newsnight and I’d do the same again in the blink of an eye.

‘At the end of the day, this is about patient safety and the GMC guidance says doctors should speak up about patient safety.

‘I’m appalled by the actions of Jacob Rees-Mogg. Andrew Wakefield was struck off by the GMC – and if Mr Rees-Mogg has serious concerns about my fitness to practice then he should refer me to the GMC.’

‘This time the attack on me is premeditated and it’s an attempt by government to bully whistleblowers, and it’s not just doctors.

‘I challenge him to repeat outside the chamber the allegation that I am comparable to Andrew Wakefield – let’s see what happens.’  

On Monday the consultant neurologist Dr Nicholl rang in to the Commons Leader’s LBC radio show and asked how many extra deaths Mr Rees-Mogg would accept as a result of a lack of drugs under a No Deal Brexit.

Dr Nicholl was involved in Operation Yellowhammer and predicted fatalities would increase but Mr Rees-Mogg accused him of ‘fear-mongering on public radio’.

Left: Dr David Nicholl, who rang his LBC radio call-in show, was labelled a ‘Remoaner’ by Rees-Mogg. Right: Disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose research linking the MMR vaccine to autism was discredited but contributed to the birth of the anti-vaccination movement

Former Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, herself a doctor, suggested Rees Mogg could be sued for slander were it not for the protection of Parliamentary privelege

This lunchtime in the Commons Mr Rees-Mogg doubled down his attack on Dr Nicholl, saying: ‘Preparations are in place and they are being done with remarkable efficiency. But yes, a lot of Remainers wish to make our skins crawl.

‘What he had to say, I will repeat it, is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union. What level of irresponsibility was that?

‘And I’m afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicoll is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield.’ 

Andrew Wakefield was struck off the medical register for unethical behaviour after he was found to have deliberately falsified elements of a later-discredited research paper published in 1998 which linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. 

Whereas Dr Nicholl is a respected NHS consultant neurologist who contributed to the Operation Yellowhammer planning document which predicted shortages of medicines, food and fuel in the event of No Deal.

The comparison could be considered slanderous but a legal convention called Parliamentary Privilege protects everything said in the chamber of the Commons from lawsuits for defamation. 

Dr Nicholl also said he would sue Mr Rees-Mogg is he repeated the comparison outside parliament.

He told the Guardian: ‘I will sue him if he repeats what he said outside parliament,’ Nicholl said. ‘This is nothing really to do with Brexit, this is about bulling up any experts and bullying of whistleblowers.’ 

Jacob Rees Mogg said Dr David Nicholl was as irresponsible as Andrew Wakefield

The doctor responded that the statement was defamatory but protected by Privilege

Why a comparison with Andrew Wakefield is ‘slanderous’

Few names arouse as much ire in the British medical community as that of disgraced former researcher Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield was struck off the medical register for unethical behaviour after he was found to have deliberately falsified research published in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

Andrew Wakefield falsified research in a paper which wrongly linked the MMR vaccine to autism. He was struck off

As the scare grew and the anti-vaccine movement arose, critics were quick to point out his research paper had huge scientific shortcomings, including a lack of control cases and reliance on parental recall and beliefs.

Over the following decade numerous  epidemiological studies consistently found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was retracted 12 years later.

In 2010, the General Medical Council found more than 30 charges proved, including four counts of dishonesty and twelve counts involving the abuse of developmentally delayed children.

The panel ruled that Wakefield had ‘failed in his duties as a responsible consultant’, acted against the interests of his patients, and acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in his published research.

Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register, with a statement identifying deliberate falsification in his research. 

The neurologist went on to say he would have forgiven Mr Rees-Mogg for his radio comments but not for his use of parliament as a shield ‘to bully’.

He told the Guardian: ‘I would have happily forgave him his response on Monday on LBC, given that I was sprung on him by the radio station. But in this case he has used his parliamentary privilege to bully me.

‘Fundamentally this is about experts giving advice to the government and then being ignored and derided.’

Today Dr Nicholl was seen outside the Houses of Parliament holding a megaphone as he spoke to the media to denounce Mr Rees-Moggs’s comments. 

He tweeted: ‘A statement was made by a govt minister this am which I believe 2 be defamatory but is protected by Parliam privilege. 

‘I am currently catching train 2 London 2 speak to BBC PM. 

‘I’m happy 2 speak to any other legitimate journo on College Green afterwards.

‘Apologies 2 my dentist.’ 

The leader of the house’s incendiary comments come as former Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee said he crossed the floor on Tuesday as a result of Mr Rees Mogg’s clash with Dr Nicholl. 

The new Liberal Democrat told Sky News: ‘Jacob Rees-Mogg was just disgraceful in his manner and the way in which he spoke to a member of my profession.

‘So if I am going to cite an incident, the straw that broke the camel’s back, it was that.

‘It was disgraceful, it was about ignoring evidence, it was about showing disrespect to experts, to people with professional standing and knowledge.’

On the radio on Monday Dr Nicholl called in to say: ‘I wrote the plans of mitigation’ but Mr Rees-Mogg called him a ‘Remoaner’ replying: ‘Well you didn’t write very good plans.’ 

He claimed there were ‘reserve plans to fly drugs in if necessary’.   

Dr Nicholl warned that people could die because of potential problems with access to drugs and radioactive isotopes in the event of a No Deal Brexit. 

He said: ‘This is a major focus of Government policy. I think it’s deeply irresponsible, Dr Nicholl, of you to call in and try to spread fear across the country.

‘I think it’s typical of Remainer campaigners and you should be quite ashamed, I’m afraid.’ 

Dr Nicholl later challenged Mr Rees-Mogg to report him to the General Medical Council (GMC).

‘If he has got doubts about my probity, I am more than happy to be referred to the GMC,’ he said.

‘I am not bothered about Jacob Rees-Mogg. I’m not going to take a single word of health lessons from a muppet like him.’

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